Theatre Mirror Reviews "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Rhode Island College Theatre Department's closing show of the season is "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". This hilarious musical is based on the popular 1988 hit MGM movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It follows two very different con artists working their schemes on the French Riviera. It centers on the suave and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson, who makes his lavish living by talking rich women out of their money. He collaborates with Andre Thibault, the French police chief and a small time crook, Freddy Benson who more humbly swindles woman by preying on them by making them feel compassion for his sick grandmother. They eventually make a bet on who can swindle an innocent heiress out of $50,000. Three women figure heavily in the plot line including Muriel of Omaha, Jolene of Oklahoma and Christine Colgate, a soap queen.The Broadway show opened on March 3, 2005 and ran until September 3, 2006 and has music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane. It is full of twists and turns, has a fun twist that will keep audience laughing, humming and guessing as to what happened till the end of the show. Director Bill Wilson takes his 25 member cast on a madcap and joyous ride during this hysterically funny musical, performed brilliantly by his hard working cast with topnotch music direction by Anthony Torelli and clever, inventive choreography by Angelica Vessella. Their expertise creates a musical treat that the audience can enjoy all night long, making it a must see show of this spring season.

The sets by Kathryn Hecht and costumes by Charlotte Burgess are very lavish reflecting the wealth of the Riviera. The songs extend and advance the plot of the show so the audience must pay close attention to figure out what is happening. Bill helms this contemporary musical comedy with a deft hand, making the wild and crazy characters come to life as well as making them likable to the audience in a tongue in cheek style. Some examples occur when an usher in the audience sings about being seduced by Lawrence, when Freddy pushed offstage in his wheelchair, and when Muriel sings about being liked in the second act. Bill also pays attention to the various accents in the show including British, French, German and Southern. He gives the cast many moments of shtick to perform especially when Freddy portrays Ruprecht with Curly type antics thrown in to the mix as well as rubbing his face on Jolene's boobs and when he's miraculously healed by a phony doctor. David Yazbek's music and lyrics are reminiscent of Cole Porter's clever lyrics of the past. Anthony makes the performers shine in their numbers as well as conducts a twelve piece orchestra. The overture sounds like the Pink Panther music with an awesome and intricate dance done to it. Angelica's many splendid dances include ballroom, soft shoe, a Fred and Ginger type, a tango, a mambo and a country western style. All are excellently performed by this multitalented cast.

The two male leads in the show do a terrific job with their singing, dancing and acting. Lawrence is wonderfully played by David Groccia. He acts urbane and debonair ala James Bond. The character is a lot like Henry Higgins from "My Fair Lady" as Lawrence tries to transform Freddy into a debonair thief like himself. David sings "Give Them What They Want" which is a patter song explaining how the women want to be swindled by him, "All About Ruprecht" where Lawrence explains his brother's mental condition (Freddy is the brother in this scene), "Ruffhousin' Mit Shuffhausen" where Lawrence pretends to be an Austrian doctor trying to cure Freddy's paralysis, "The More We Dance" is another con by Lawrence to woo Christine and the lovely ballad, "Love Sneaks In". David does a topnotch job as Lawrence.

Freddy is the complete opposite of Lawrence and Tyler Indyck does a marvelous job as Freddy. The character is very much like an athletic Nathan Lane. Freddy cons women by saying his grandmother is sick. He promises a woman she will have a new hip under her tree. Tyler's physical dexterity in this role is astounding. Some of his funniest bits include pretending to be the demented Ruprecht, which has to been seen to be believed stopping the show with hilarity, in the wheelchair when he zooms around the stage ala Sheridan Whiteside from "The Man Who Came to Dinner" as well as when he crawls up the stairs with his wheelchair. His incredible tenor voice is displayed in "Great Big Stuff" where Freddy wants all the things money can buy, "Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True" where he pretends he is unable to walk in front of Christine, "Love Is My Legs'' where he tells Christine that she's his inspiration to walk again,  "Son of Big Stuff" when Freddy believes he has won the bet, "The Reckoning" where Freddy tells Lawrence what really happened and "Dirty Rotten Number" where they get what's coming to them. Lawrence and Freddy become duped instead of duping. The closing scene has both men clad in white suits wondering how to bilk tourists arriving from Greece.

Sarah Pothier, a gorgeous brunette, plays the dimbulb, Christine Colgate who is an heiress of an American Soap Company. She displays her fabulous soprano voice as she enters the stage with her luggage and the chorus in "Here I Am", a rousing number which is reminiscent of "Friendship" by Cole Porter. Sarah also sings "Love is My Legs" and the glorious ballad, "Nothing Is So Wonderful" wiith Tyler in which Christine wants to help Freddy out of the goodness of her heart. She starts the song and he joins in later with funny rhyming words. Sarah is terrific as Christine, this dumb gal who might not be as dumb as she seems. Some of her funniest bits are when she knocks Freddy out, stumbles over things and is a klutz. Sarah is disguised in a wig at the end of the show which garners much laughter. Andre, the cop is excellently portrayed by Neil Jeronimo. He has a marvelous French accent throughout the show as this shady police inspector. Neil is a hoot in his song about Freddy called "Chimp in a Suit". He ridicules him as being too low class for Lawrence to take him on as a pupil, calling Freddy a minkey. It is a show stopping song because it reminds the audience of Inspector Clouseau from "The Pink Panther". Neil also has the hilarious duet with the character of Muriel called "Like Zis, Like Zat" as they perform a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers type dance. Neil stops the show with his hilarious portrayal of Andre.

Muriel Eubanks of Omaha is a tourist who falls for Lawrence's fake prince routine, giving him all her jewelry after a romp in the hay. She is wonderfully played by another gorgeous brunette,Chantell Arraial. She displays her topnotch voice in "What Was A Woman to Do?" and the other women who were conned by him join in on the number with her. After she meets Andre several times, they decide they like each other singing risque lyrics while wearing sunglasses in the comic duet "Like Zis, Like Zat". Chantell and Neil also dance in "The More I Dance". Last but not least is the scene stealing lovely red head Nicole Calkins as the very wealthy Jolene who decides to marry Lawrence. She sings "Oklahoma?" and squeals and kicks up her heels like a real country gal performing a show stopping country and western dance with the chorus. Jolene is reminiscent of a naughtier Ado Annie from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma" but Yazbek makes sure there is absolutely no confusion with their version with lyrics like "I'm gonna shoot the fuckers". The wild and crazy antics among Nicole, David and Tyler in the Ruprecht number are outstanding, too as she gets manhandled by Tyler. A word of praise to the ensemble for their stellar singing and dancing all night long. So for a fantastic rendition of a contemporary musical be sure to catch "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" before the con ends at Rhode Island College. The secret password is Tony sent you.

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (24 - 27 April)
@ Roberts Hall, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide